DRUGS IN THE COMMUNITY
What should you do if you suspect drugs are being sold and/or used at a location? In this article the Lynn Drug Task Force will answer this question and explain how you can help the police help you.
Regardless of the accuracy of your suspicion, don't hesitate to contact the police and express your concerns. Some people might hesitate to contact the police because they fear their speculation might result in a police raid on a potentially innocent person.
Bear in mind that there is a great deal of investigating and preparation that proceeds any police enforcement action. Consequently, your mere suspicion alone will not be the basis of a police raid at someone's house or business. Your information may, however, be the third or fourth call from a citizen complaining about the same people and location, or that suspected person might be on probation or parole. So remember, the community will only benefit from your information, and if your information cannot be corroborated or substantiated, at the very least, it might prove useful in the future.
There is a legal distinction between the terms "anonymous" and "confidential." If a person calls the police and declines to identify themselves, then they are considered an "anonymous" caller. Generally, anonymous information is considered unreliable because there is no basis by which police can assess the reliability of the information. An anonymous caller could be a disgruntled ex-spouse, a rival drug dealer, or a habitual liar.
There are occasions when anonymous information can be corroborated by independent information, but generally it has little probative value. However, If a person calls the police and identifies themselves but requests that their identity not be revealed, then they are considered a "confidential" caller. Information provided by a confidential caller is far more useful because police can verify that the caller is who they say they are and determine what is the caller's motivation for providing the information. Citizens who identify themselves to the police are presumed to be legally reliable unless the police can prove otherwise.
There are many legal protections which assist police in keeping peoples' identities confidential. Not once has a confidential citizen's identity been exposed unless it was their decision to do so. Consequently, the Lynn Drug Task Force would encourage anyone calling the police with information to identify themselves. If you want to remain confidential, just say so and your confidentiality will be insured.
It doesn't matter whether the location you suspect drugs are being sold is a house, business, park, or street corner in your neighborhood, the procedure is the same. Try to document your observations as thoroughly as possible. Indicate dates and times, descriptions of people and vehicles, and record any vehicle license plates that you can. Many citizens think that the police can receive a call and simply rush to the area, watch what's going on, and arrest people. Unfortunately, a surveillance is a very labor intensive and time consuming process and there is no guarantee that the suspicious activity will occur when the police are watching.
The Lynn Drug Task Force usually corroborates information they receive with surveillance; however, there are limited resources and the police usually can only be at one place at a time. A citizen's thorough notes are often critical to the success of an investigation. The notes help police identify who is involved in the suspicious activity, whether there are any patterns as to when and how the activity occurs, etc.
If the problem is a neighborhood problem, and you are aware of other neighbors who share your concerns, speak with those neighbors and make it a group effort. More than one person enhances the reliability of the information and shares the burden documenting the suspicious activity, which in my experience, usually results in more comprehensive documentation.
This article was prepared as an overview and it by no means addresses the many facets involved in narcotics investigations. If anyone has any further questions or wants to report possible drug activity in the City of Lynn, please don't hesitate to call the Lynn Drug Task Force at (781) 477-4444. If you suspect drug activity in another city, contact that city's police department. If you see what you believe to be an in-progress drug crime, call 9-1-1.
Lynn Police Department
Lynn Drug Task Force
300 Washington Street
Lynn, MA 01902
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